Pattern is a key element in both the esthetics of design and mathematics, one definition of which is “the study of all possible patterns”. Thus, the geometric patterns that adorn cultural artifacts manifest mathematical thinking in the artisans who create them, albeit their lack of “formal” mathematics learning. In describing human constructions, Franz Boas affirmed that people, regardless of their economic conditions, always have been engaged in activities that reveal their deeply held esthetic sense. The Tlingit Indians from Sitka, Alaska, are known for their artistic endeavors. Art aficionados and museum collectors revere their baskets and other artifacts. Taking the approach of ethnomathematics, I report my analysis of the complex geometrical patterns in Tlingit basketry.
Swapna Mukhopadhyay has written an article entitled The decorative impulse: ethnomathematics and Tlingit basketry. The article was published online in ZDM earlier this week. Here is the article abstract: